Friday, January 11, 2013

Tomatoes & Peppers from Seed.

Last week my husband and I started our tomato and pepper seeds. We want the seedlings to have a good head start before setting them out in the garden--approximately two months from now. We hope to pot them up to larger pots at least a few weeks before we set them out in the garden.

On the right, a pot half full with mostly composted chips.
On the left, the pot has the seed starter mix on the top.

I'd purchased some organic seed starter soil so the seedlings would have the best chance for success.  This type of potting soil is sterilized to combat damping off and other fungi that sometimes damage new seedlings. We put mostly composted wood chips* in the bottom half of each pot and then added the sterile soil on top to about half and inch from the rim of the pots.

These pots have been used many times, but after each use I wash them with rain barrel water and a brush. Then they are thoroughly dried in the sun before storing them until the next season.

Wetting the soil.
The next task is to thoroughly wet the soil. We slowly dribble rain barrel water on each pot. 

Pouring out the seeds.
We set up the pots on spare downspout drainage diverter trays. (They are no longer needed for our downspouts because we've installed rain barrels.)  When we are in the process of soaking the pots, we can tip them up to hold the water, but they also work well for draining away the excess water when it's time.

We put two seeds in each depression, which are in the four corners of the pot. This way if one seed does not germinate another is there in that spot. Potentially, there could be eight seedlings in one pot.

Most of these seeds are new for this year, so we expect a high rate of germination, but two of types of pepper seed have been saved from previous years, so this method is probably more important for them. (I do keep the seeds refrigerated in a sealed opaque container to prolong their viability.

After the seeds have been planted, we add about a quarter inch of soil on top.
After all the seeds are planted, we cover the soil in the pots with another quarter inch of the sterile starter soil.

And then we are ready to start the daily shuttle of the seeds from the SW-facing garage window to the hot sidewalk just outside the garage. Yesterday and today, the weather is in the 80s! So the seedlings stay out in the hot sun, but earlier in the week when the highs were in the 50s, they stayed inside.
Here is the arrangement of what we've sowed. We use a very fine stream of water from our rain barrel hose to rewet the pots on the day we planted the seeds.

A week later and after the warm weather yesterday, we have sprouts! Both the Sunchocola cherry tomatoes and the Brandy boys are the first to sprout. Today's hot sun will probably entice more seedlings to emerge. I took this photo first thing this morning, but now these seedlings are much greener.

Oh the magical process of germinating seeds... It takes my breath away every time.

I hope you have started planning for your spring gardening.

* Read about my mostly composted arborist woodchips here: "A Requiem for a Hickory Tree" and here: "A compost turning = happy gardening in 2013!"

Read more about my rain barrels here: Climb up my Rain Barrels and there are links to the subsequent rain barrel articles.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

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